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Drug Information > Opiates

Drug Appearance:

Generally, marijuana is a mixture of green, brown, or gray tobacco-like plant material.

Street Name(s):

Heroin (Smack, Horse, Junk, China White)   Morphine (M, Miss Emma)   Codeine  (School Boy)   Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
Oxycodone (Percocet, Percodan, Oxycotin)   Oxymorphone (Numorpha)


Glassine envelopes, needles and syringes, caps or spoons, tourniquets,

Signs of Use:

Needle marks on arms
Insensitivity to pain, euphoria, sedation, nausea, vomiting, itchiness, watery eyes, running nose


Lethargy, weight loss, hepatitis, slow and shallow breathing, possible death

Further Information

Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan)

Oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant. Oxycodone's action appears to work through stimulating the opioid receptors found in the central nervous system that activate responses ranging from analgesia to respiratory depression to euphoria. People who take the drug repeatedly can develop a tolerance or resistance to the drug's effects. Thus, a cancer patient can take a dose of oxycodone on a regular basis that would be fatal in a person never exposed to oxycodone or another opioid. Most individuals who abuse oxycodone seek to gain the euphoric effects, mitigate pain, and avoid withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone or heroin abstinence.

Oxycodone has a high abuse potential and is prescribed for moderate to high pain relief associated with injuries, bursitis, dislocation, fractures, neuralgia, arthritis, and lower back and cancer pain. It is also used postoperatively and for pain relief after childbirth. OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, and Tylox are trade name oxycodone products.

OxyContin is designed to be swallowed whole; however, abusers ingest the drug in a variety of ways. OxyContin abusers often chew the tablets or crush the tablets and snort the powder. Because oxycodone is water soluble, crushed tablets can be dissolved in water and the solution injected. The latter two methods lead to the rapid release and absorption of oxycodone.


First synthesized from morphine in 1874, heroin was not extensively used in medicine until the beginning of this century. Commercial production of the new pain remedy was first started in 1898. While it received widespread acceptance from the medical profession, physicians remained unaware of its potential for addiction for years. The first comprehensive control of heroin in the United States was established with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914.

Heroin, an illegal opiate drug known on the street as smack, junk, brown sugar, dope, horse, skunk and other names is derived from the resin of the poppy plant which grows predominantly in southeast and southwest Asia, Mexico and now in Colombia. It is manufactured in remote laboratories using rudimentary equipment which presses the powder into bricks for bulk shipment to destination countries like the United States. Smaller amounts are smuggled by couriers who swallow heroin-filled latex balloons before boarding commercial airlines.

Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste. Most illicit heroin is a powder form which may vary in color from white to dark brown because of impurities left from the manufacturing process or the presence of additives. Pure heroin is rarely sold on the street. A "bag" --slang for a single dosage unit of heroin--may contain 100 mg of powder, only a small portion of which is heroin. The remainder could be sugars, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Traditionally the purity of heroin in a "bag" has ranged from one to ten percent. More recently, heroin purity has ranged from one to ninety-eight percent, with a national average of thirty-five percent.

Another form of heroin, "black tar," has also become increasingly available in the western United States. The color and consistency of black tar heroin results from the crude processing methods used to illicitly manufacture the substance in Mexico. Black tar heroin may be sticky, like roofing tar or hard like coal, and its color may vary from dark brown to black. It is often sold on the street in its tar-like state at purities ranging from twenty to eighty percent. This heroin is most frequently dissolved, diluted and injected.

The typical heroin user today consumes more heroin than a typical user did just a decade ago, which is not surprising given the higher purity currently available at the street level. Until recently, heroin in the United States almost exclusively was injected either intravenously, subcutaneous (skin-popping), or intramuscularly. Injection is the most practical and efficient way to administer low-purity heroin. The availability of higher purity heroin has meant that users now can snort or smoke the narcotic. Evidence suggests that heroin snorting is widespread or increasing in those areas of the country where high-purity heroin is available, generally in the northeastern United States. This method of administration may be more appealing to new users because it eliminates both the fear of acquiring syringe-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and the historical stigma attached to intravenous heroin use.


First synthesized in Belgium in the late 1950s, fentanyl, with an analgesic potency of about 80 times that of morphine, was introduced into medical practice in the 1960s as an intravenous anesthetic under the trade name of Sublimaze. Thereafter; two other fentanyl analogues were introduced; alfentanil (Alfenta), an ultra-short (5-10 minutes) acting analgesic, and sufentanil (Sufenta), an exceptionally potent analgesic (5 to 10 times more potent than fentanyl) for use in heart surgery. Today, fentanyls are extensively used for anesthesia and analgesia. Duragesic, for example, is a fentanyl transdermal patch used in chronic pain management, and Actiq is a solid formulation of fentanyl citrate on a stick that dissolves slowly in the mouth for transmucosal absorption. Actiq is intended for opiate-tolerant individuals and is effective in treating breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Carfentanil (Wildnil) is an analogue of fentanyl with an analgesic potency 10,000 times that of morphine and is used in veterinary practice to immobilize certain large animals.

Illicit use of pharmaceutical fentanyls first appeared in the mid-1970s in the medical community and continues to be a problem in the United States. To date, over 12 different analogues of fentanyl have been produced clandestinely and identified in the U.S. drug traffic. The biological effects of the fentanyls are indistinguishable from those of heroin, with the exception that the fentanyls may be hundreds of times more potent. Fentanyls are most commonly used by intravenous administration, but like heroin, they may also be smoked or snorted.

Common Opiates, Opioids, Morphine Derivatives

Proprietary Name Substance DEA Schedule*
Dilaudid Hydromorphone II
Fentanyl N-phenyl-propanamide I
Heroin Diacetylmorphine I
Lorcet Dihydrocodeinone II
Lortab Dihydrocodeinone II
Methadone Dimethylamino I
Morphine methylmorphinan I
OxyContin Oxycodone II
Percocet Oxycodone II
Percodan Oxycodone II
Tylox Oxycodone II
Vicodin hydrocodone II


Substance: Urine Hair Saliva
Codeine 1 to 3 days up to 90 days 24 to 36 hours
Morphine 1 to 3 days up to 90 days 24 to 36 hours
Hydrocodone 1 to 3 days N/A 24 to 36 hours
Hydromorphone 1 to 3 days N/A 24 to 36 hours
Oxycodone 1 to 3 days N/A 24 to 36 hours
Oxymorphone 1 to 3 days N/A 24 to 36 hours
6-monoacetylmorphine 1 to 3 days N/A 24 to 36 hours

    *Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule I and II drugs have a high potential for abuse. They require greater storage security and have a quota on manufacture among other restrictions. Schedule I drugs are available for research only and have no approved medical use. Schedule II drugs are available only through prescription, cannot have refills and require a form for ordering. Schedule III and IV drugs are available with prescription, may have 5 refills in 6 months and may be ordered orally. Most Schedule V drugs are available over the counter.